concert reviews

Jarboe at Nation, Washington, DC, Thursday 19 May 2005

The ordinarily dreary Nation was decorated like a high school gymnasium on Thursday night for the annual Alchemy-sponsored Goth Prom, with streamers stretched across the room and a carpet of balloons on the floor. Amid this cheesy decor -- and the inevitable popping of balloons -- former Swans vocalist Jarboe and keyboardist Renee Nelson flew through a brief but passionate 45-minute set.

Jarboe looked like a Goth version of Cher, with long black hair draping over a flowing sheer dress that provocatively swished around her vinyl panties. But her scanty attire wasn't the only thing that commanded attention: Her nearly operatic voice swelled through the room as she belted out Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home" over a simple keyboard-and-strings arrangement. She projected passion without melodrama, capturing a range of emotions from melancholy to anger as she repeated the phrase "I try to remember everything that's lost" (from "Seizure").

Despite her headlining status, Jarboe attracted a paltry crowd in the concert room, as most of the promgoers chose to dance in the DJ room. Unfortunately, the thumping of dance beats could be heard in both rooms and overpowered an a cappella duet between Jarboe and Nelson on the traditional "Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes." Even with that setback, Jarboe delivered a powerful performance -- one that would have been better suited to a smaller, more intimate venue that wasn't simultaneously hosting a dance party a few feet away.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 21 May 2005
.: Selected discography: A Mystery of Faith (Jarboe, 2005); Anhedoniac (Jarboe, 2004); Thirteen Masks (Jarboe, 2004); Neurosis & Jarboe (Neurosis & Jarboe, 2003); Sacrificial Cake (Jarboe, 1995).